Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Carr-Glyn, Neva Josephine Mary (1908–1975)

by Martha Rutledge

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

Neva Josephine Mary Carr-Glyn (1908-1975), actress, was born on 10 May 1908 in Melbourne, daughter of Adolphus Benjamin Carr Glynn (d.1923), an Irish-born vaudevillian known as 'Arthur Glynn', and his wife Marie Dunoon, née Senior, late Mola, a singer from Scotland. Travelling with her parents, Neva (aged 4) appeared as Little Willie in East Lynne (with her mother 'Marie Avis'), and was 'in and out of convents all over Australia'. In Sydney she learned ballet at Minnie Hooper's dancing academy. She left school at 14 and made the back line of the chorus in the Fullers' pantomime, Dick Whittington and his Cat, at the Majestic Theatre in December 1923, then toured until late 1924 with the Band Box Revue.

Given a five-year contract as a 'utility' by Sir Benjamin Fuller, Neva found the work gruelling, though 'it was wonderful training'. She was constantly busy: principal girl in Robinson Crusoe (1925-26), in vaudeville with Jim Gerald and George Wallace, principal boy in Aladdin at the Majestic (1927-28), and with Roy Rene in Clowns in Clover (December 1929). In January 1930 she left on a tour of South Africa with the Frank Neil Company, during which she had leading roles in feathery comedies.

In London in January 1931 Neva was given the second lead in the operetta, Nina Rosa. She was well connected through her mother (a sister of Lady Coombe) and was a cousin of the actress 'Carol' Coombe. Imperious, with 'a dark, rather exotic grace', strong features and flashing, blue eyes, Neva temporarily dyed her raven hair because there were more parts for blondes. Joining Leslie Henson's company in 1931, she performed in such plays as Living Dangerously (1934), Accidentally Yours (1935) and Aren't Men Beasts? (1936). At the register office, Paddington, on 7 August 1936 she married Arthur William John, a private secretary from Australia; they were soon to be divorced. She also appeared in four films, including The Squeaker (1937) for (Sir) Alexander Korda.

Neva returned to Sydney in September 1937 and joined Gerald at the Tivoli. Under contract to the Australian Broadcasting Commission from mid-1938 until her release in April 1941, she worked extremely long hours and starred (often with Peter Finch) in countless radio plays, among them 'Toad of Toad Hall' and Max Afford's detective serial, 'Greyface'. She missed contact with the audience and the excitement of the theatre, but found radio to be 'a serious art with a fascination all its own', requiring 'twice the sincerity necessary in stage acting'.

At St Mark's Anglican Church, Darling Point, on 19 July 1940 Neva married a fellow actor John Paul Tate; their son Nick was born in 1942. They lived at Darling Point, acquired a cottage at Mona Vale and spent their spare time 'messing about in boats'. Developing 'fine teamwork', Neva and John appeared together in numerous radio plays (such as Victoria Regina) and serials (including Edmund Barclay's 'As Ye Sow'). A star in 'Lux Radio Theatre' and for Macquarie Broadcasting Services Pty Ltd, she won Macquarie awards for the best actress in 1950 and 1951. Throughout the 1940s Neva was also leading lady at the Minerva Theatre. The Tates toured New Zealand in 1944 with J. C. Williamson Ltd; Arsenic and Old Lace was in the repertoire. In August 1950 they appeared at the Theatre Royal, Hobart, for Fifi Banvard.

In 1951-52 Neva toured Australia with the John Alden Company, playing—among other Shakespearian roles—Portia in The Merchant of Venice and Titania in A Midsummer Night's Dream. Her marriage ended in divorce in 1954. She appeared in The Shifting Heart for the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust in 1957 and, joining the Trust Players in 1959, was acclaimed as Oola (written for her by Peter Kenna) in The Slaughter of St. Teresa's Day.

Living alone from 1965, with a dog her only companion, Neva was tired of touring. In the 1960s she appeared with the Old Tote Theatre Company and the Marian Street Theatre, in films, in television programmes that ranged from 'Skippy' to 'Homicide', in the A.B.C. radio serial, 'Blue Hills', and even with a professional group that performed at clubs. She played Mrs Gillipop for four years in the children's television show, 'The Gillipops'. A battler afflicted with a severe limp, she was increasingly type-cast as 'bizarre harridan-like women', as in the film (1967) of Norman Lindsay's Age of Consent. After missing a rehearsal for the A.B.C. television serial 'Certain Women', on 10 August 1975 she was found to have died of a cerebral haemorrhage at her Mona Vale home. Survived by her son, she was cremated. Neva Carr-Glyn was considered by her peers to be one of Australia's best actresses, able to handle both drama and sophisticated comedy with telling effect.

Select Bibliography

  • H. Porter, Stars of Australian Stage and Screen (Syd, 1965)
  • ABC Weekly, 18 Jan 1941, 20 Oct 1945, 21 Aug 1948
  • Listener In, 18 June 1950, 15-21 Dec 1951
  • Broadcaster, 22 Dec, 1951
  • TV Times, 7 Aug 1971, 19 Jan 1974
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 29 Mar, 26 Apr 1934, 15 Aug 1936, 15 Mar 1938, 17 July 1939, 28 July 1960, 11 Aug 1975
  • Truth (Sydney), 19 Dec 1937
  • Mercury (Hobart), 5, 8, 22 Aug 1950
  • Sunday Telegraph (Sydney), 22 Sept 1957
  • Australian, 15 Jan 1965
  • Sun-Herald (Sydney), 23 Mar 1969
  • Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 11 Aug 1975
  • Canberra Times, 12 Aug 1975
  • N. Carr Glyn, ABC file (National Archives of Australia)
  • private information.

Citation details

Martha Rutledge, 'Carr-Glyn, Neva Josephine Mary (1908–1975)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/carr-glyn-neva-josephine-mary-9693/text17109, published in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 2 September 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

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